5/28/2010

I Almost Forgot

My cordless phone bit the dust this week. (Yes, I still have a landline--I make way too many local calls to waste peak cell phone minutes on them.) It started emitting a terrible buzz that interfered with the line so badly that calls weren't coming through. It wouldn't let me dial out or hang up, either. I did call the phone company to have them run a few tests just to make sure that definitely was the problem, and as soon as I disconnected it, everything was clear on the princess phone I keep in the bedroom.

So I have to add "shop for new phone" this weekend.

Let the Catching-up Begin

1. Sleep. laundry, dishes. Probably not in that order.

2. Those "Ask Kate P (Nearly) Anything" Questions.

3. This movie and then that movie. (Let's hear it for the public library--2 for 2 on locating older movies.)

4. A few family members on Sunday.

5. This book (a re-read) for the school book club on Thursday.

6. Job applications and touching base with Dr. Red.

7. More worrying about #6, because I simply did not do enough worrying during the week. I guess it's safe to mention I have a (reluctant) interview next Friday, for a middle school library. It's a hike from where I live, and the enthusiastic person arranging the interview responded to my "What do I need to bring?" question with "Anything that will make you shine!"

I'm thinking spray tan with glitter. Jazz up my interview suit a bit.



5/25/2010

On the Positive Side

At one point during the day today, some stealthy student kept leaving typed notes across my keyboard every time I got up to help a history student find books.

The first one was not punctuated and said something to the effect of "We know you like cats so you should go to this site," with a URL below that, and then another sentence stating it was legit and not blocked by the district filter (v. important).

I laughed at that one but put it aside.

The second (better written) message that appeared assured me I would love it.

I showed my co-librarian the notes and she agreed that was cute. So I went back to my desk and tried the URL.

And laughed as a rather plump grey-and-white kitteh tried to jump into an appliance box.

I wrote, "Thank you, mysterious fellow cat-lover!" at the bottom of note #2.

When I came back to my desk later, I saw a half-sheet of paper with the question, "Do you like?"

"YES!" I wrote back, with a smiley.

I suspect it was one or two of the girls who were sitting at the table near my desk, because one "meowed" during the next period, but I can't be sure.

Very cute, though.


Oh, It's Just Another Day in My Life

1. Woke up to cat-barf-o-rama. (Which explains the weird behavior but my gosh does this always have to be the only option for conclusion?)

2. Cleaned everything up and got to school as fast as I could. Found an observation report in my mailbox. A report on an unannounced, performed-in-secret observation that happened last week during the afternoon following the second round of 8th grade visits. Not exactly a fair picture of what I do in the library, and there was a remark about how I wasn't interacting with the students enough, so I was pretty freaked. Every little thing I do wrong could cost me the job.

3. And sure enough there's a request for a post-observation conference in my e-mail in-box. My co-librarian assured me that I was reading too much into the remark--and she agreed with me that part of it was just the timing of it. (We don't get formal prep periods like teachers do, and she opined that administrators forget that fact sometimes. Sue us if we take a few minutes to talk to our aide about how the 8th grade visits went.)

4. Read #4 in the Scott Pilgrim series while I ate my lunch. That was a nice time-out.

5. I rocked the research with the European and U.S. History classes, and held a student's hand as he used the copier for the first time.

6. Said what I could at the conference. I just keep coming away with the feeling that everyone expected me to revolutionize the library. . . so I have to ask, how the #^%! was I supposed to do that when all year I was "just a long-term sub"? They wouldn't even give me administrative authority on the printer queues, for frig's sake!

7. Had pretty much the same conference with my co-librarian. She gets it. She'd like me to stay--revealed the district isn't known for hiring long-term subs permanently--but is resigned more or less to whatever they want to do. She's almost used to the revolving door that's been there the past few years.

8. Worked out tomorrow's computer lab schedule, went grocery shopping, came home. Did some cleaning up so maintenance can come look at dining room AC that won't produce cold air. Washed the (already rinsed) stuff that got hit with barf.

9. Just finished a conference call about my side job, wrote out my rent check and a check for a dinner I got talked into attending on Thursday for school (good PR move I hope). Gotta go make a sandwich, finish cleaning, and go to bed.

Yup, just another day. At least it's never dull!

(That said, I could do without the barf.)


5/24/2010

And I Never Make Idle Threats

Me to The Cat: "You are one weird behavior away from a trip to the vet."



5/21/2010

Time Extended on Giveaway

You have until noon on Saturday to get your questions in. Details at the bottom of this post.


Fun or Kinda Awkward?

There's a happy hour organized by one of the math teachers, just about every payday (two Fridays a month). I've attended just about every one, mostly because I get to see faculty and staff I don't normally see in the library, and I get to know their names and stuff.

I'm more or less the only woman who has shown up every time this year. Last time, one of the other math teachers was the only other woman for a while--and her husband showed up not too long after she arrived.

This afternoon, we had the math teacher-organizer, another math teacher, and two science teachers. All guys.

And me.

Don't get me wrong--they're all nice people and would never make me feel unwelcome, but I wonder if they were thinking that if only I weren't there, they'd be having completely different conversations. (Even if I made one of the science teachers laugh when I guessed that the raffle basket prize he won at yesterday's walk-fundraiser-thingy was bath salts.)

But worse than that, I feel self-conscious that I appeared to be the only woman who didn't have something else to do this afternoon, or couldn't convince any of the other ladies to come. (Almost as if I'm not really friends with any of them--and I guess when it comes down to it, I'm pretty much more of an in-school acquaintance than a friend.) That seemed compounded when two female teachers from the middle school came by to say hi to the one science teacher. They were meeting with their happy hour group. And obviously friends--they had gone shopping together beforehand.

Sometimes I really hate showing up to things alone, y'know?

I know part of it is that I'm still new and technically just there for the year--that whole "don't get attached" thing is in play. But I think part of me just hoped I'd still make friends in spite of the situation.

Oh, well--maybe next go-around.


5/20/2010

Before I Show You Some Pictures. . .

. . . let me remind you of a couple of things:

(1) My previous post was #500. Yippee!

(2) I'm opening up the "Ask Kate P" lines and taking your. . . well, not calls, but comments and e-mails for the next great "Ask Kate P (Nearly) Anything" Q&A session. Ask here or ask at the original post, but make sure you ask so you get a chance to win my drawing for a super neato prize!

Now that
that business is out of the way, let's see what has been languishing in my camera since February.


Well, hey, it snowed back in February, and then it was so windy it brought down giant tree branches, sometimes narrowly missing parked cars:




And there was that certain day in February where I made myself dinner:





The awful mess outside my patio door from the stupid December waterproofing project (#2 on the list here) rose to new levels--or maybe sank to new lows--in April:


(Is that a Q-tip out there? OMG! Ew!!!)



Finally, here we have the First Pedicure of the (almost) Summer! Yay!!!






(O.K., you looked at pictures so now you have plenty of ideas for questions. Ask away.)


5/17/2010

VIMs (Very Important Memos) from the Desk of Kate P

To the Property Manager Above the Community Manager
Re: New Landscaping

You will be hearing from me shortly about the lack of any type of screening shrubbery in front of my patio. I know grass is easier to maintain, but I would like more of a boundary to put some space between my patio and the kids playing outside, the people who like to park in the fire lane "just to run in for a minute" (anywhere from three hours to overnight until someone asks the police come by to ticket), and the outside environment in general.

I'm contacting you because after posing the question about whether the bushes they ripped out in December were being replaced to the Community Manager, I received a fairly flip voicemail message telling me that I "might have noticed they were making things a little more uniform in front of the buildings" and that she hoped I was "happy with it." What part of "Will the bushes be coming back?" indicates I am happy with it!?


To the Nagging Voice in the Back of My Head
Re: Submission of Paperwork Expressing Interest in Being Hired at School Next Year

Shut up! I did not forget to sign my name, and there are no typos. You hear me? Everything looked great and they will be impressed.


To the Four Loads of Laundry I Washed and Neatly Folded Yesterday
Re: Sitting in the Laundry Basket

Please get up and put yourselves away. I am very tired after hauling you back here from my parents' house.


To Peter Bognanni and John Green
Re: The Books of Yours that I Am Reading (and Listening)

I am really enjoying them and I can't wait to talk more about them when I finish. Which I am rushing to do before they are due back at the library.


To My Blogreaders
Re: It's Ask Kate P (Nearly) Anything Time Again + Giveaway!

This is my 500th post. WOW!!! It took me a year and a half, but here we are! This blog has covered three jobs, grad school, two apartments, many movies and many more books, cat antics, and some lovely maiden moments (with and without really bad dates).

Some of you regular readers know it's time for yet another edition of Ask Kate P (Nearly) Anything.

Here's the deal: From now until Friday at 9:00 p.m. (Eastern), you the blogreaders can post a question here in the combox or e-mail a question to me (see sidebar for address). Anything relating to me or about me or anything I've talked about on this blog, or whatever. The usual rules of decency and confidentiality (e.g. no asking me stuff like what my real name is, or where I live, or what am I wearing--ew!) apply.

I will answer every question over (most likely) a couple of posts. Asking a question (or two or three) will get you a raffle entry into a giveaway for a surprise treat!

Past questions to intrigue and inspire you: Here, here, here, and here
.


I especially want to hear from at least one lurker! You know you want to join in the fun!

5/15/2010

Oscars Project: Movie #17

(Explanation of The Oscars Project here. The content of this post likely contains SPOILERS. You've been warned!)


From 1984:
Amadeus

Summary: Music. Pianos. Big Wigs. No, it's not an Elton John concert--it's the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told from the perspective of his biggest rival, Antonio Salieri. Mozart was crazy with genius; Salieri was crazy with envy.

My commentary: The movie, based on a play, opens with an elderly Salieri attempting to kill himself out of guilt from the belief that he was directly responsible for Mozart's death. It's a pretty gruesome but grabbing beginning. As Salieri, neck bandaged, confesses to a priest visiting him in the sanitarium, he tells of how decades ago he attempted to interfere with Mozart's obvious genius because he believed God had made a mistake in endowing Mozart, a rather vulgar and immature man, with so much brilliance. In fact, in one dramatic scene, Salieri is so miffed at God for not answering his fervent prayer to be a celebrated composer that he tears the crucifix from the wall and throws it into the fire. I bet if his Italian mama had still been alive, she would've beaten him into a stain on the floor for that. See also Salieri's description of the first time he sees Mozart (fourth one down on the list).

While Salieri insists that he caused Mozart's death by anonymously commissioning a Requiem Mass (that becomes the requiem for Mozart himself) that he planned to claim he composed, it does seem that Mozart's hard partying and the culture's "hostile and unreceptive" approach (Peske & West, 78) to his music (thereby impoverishing him) would be to blame as well. I did pull my The New ["New" meaning 1971 and probably originally my parents'] Encyclopedia of the Opera by David Ewen off the shelf and found a different story about the Requiem Mass and Mozart's death--that a Count Franz von Walsegg had been the fake patron and did in fact copy the Requiem in an attempt to take credit for it (p. 462-3).

The playwright's liberties aside, it was overall a very interesting movie. Even if the audience doesn't have much sympathy for Salieri, they're hooked on the story. I was. (In fact, I nearly jumped out of my seat when the movie ended abruptly--or so I thought. Turns out it was one of those "movie continued on other side of disc" deals. Sheesh. You'd think they'd flash a message on the screen or something.)

Amadeus was the dominating winner of the Oscars that year--eight wins, and of course Best Costume Design makes perfect sense. It did seem a little weird that Abraham and Hulce were pitted against each other in the Best Actor category, and I'm not sure I agree with the outcome. Maybe Wolfie's laugh grated on the judges' nerves after awhile. (The Oscar Movies' Pickard called Hulce "the unluckiest man of the evening" (p. 7). Also, Elizabeth Berridge, who played Mozart's wife Constanze, did not receive a nomination, and I thought that while she probably would not have beaten Sally Field, her performance at least should have been acknowledged. There's also an appearance by a rather young Cynthia Nixon as the maid hired by Salieri to spy on Mozart. Twyla Tharp did the choreography for the operatic performances, and those are all very impressive scenes.

I would recommend this movie, if not as a "must-see," then at least as something to add to one's "seen it" repertoire. "Heard it" might be more accurate--the music throughout is just as important a part as Salieri's narration, and it is beautifully done.

Peske and West point to this movie as "reassurance that your talent will eventually win out despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary" (p. 78), and I guess that's true. . . if you're the kind of artist who cares more about contributing to the arts than getting recognition.



Next up: An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)



5/13/2010

In the Weird News Category

I think Labs are great dogs, but the blond ones are kinda dumb.

(Tweeted by VPI, insurer of The Cat.)

Because We All Need a Good Laugh Sometimes

Especially when you are halfway home and and realize that you left the flash drive with the letter of interest and personal statement that you've been revising plugged into the computer at your desk in the library. (Happily, my computer is well concealed under my desk so I am just praying and thinking positively that the flash drive will not get noticed and stolen by a student.).

Where was I? Oh, right--laughter. Well, then. . .



This poster should be hanging EVERYWHERE.



(Via Bookshelves of Doom.)


5/11/2010

Inspired by a Comment from Yesterday

Creative pal CCR suggested yesterday that I should write a mock response to all the stuff surrounding the practically underground posting. I'm going to one-up that.

Dear HR people, administrators, and other interested parties,

AT the beginning of the day today, my co-librarian encouraged me to do as much as I can to fulfill your requirements to be considered a candidate for the job opening. In fact, she advised me to work on my letter of intent and my vision statement today, and let the other ongoing things-to-do fall in line after those two items.

So, I sat down at my desk and started putting a few ideas down. Moments later, I was approached by a math teacher who needed to borrow some A/V equipment. I got up and took care of her needs, waited a few minutes for her to return with other equipment she told me she had planned to return a long time ago. She didn't come back, so I went back to my desk and tried to remember where I left off.

Shortly thereafter, the English teacher who had brought her class into the library for a writing assignment asked me about videos on African folktales. I did a materials search for her and printed off a couple of item descriptions from one of our databases to bring to her at the front of the library. She was thrilled with my finds. (Note: during the next period, she e-mailed me asking how to log in to said database; I replied with the appropriate instructions.)

During second period, another English teacher e-mailed me asking if she could send a group of students from her 10th grade class over to select books for outside reading. I replied, "Send 'em down," and in a matter of moments the herd rambled through the back entrance. I met up with them at the front (fiction area) and played reader-book matchmaker for the rest of the period.

Third period--well, third period still feels funny without the energetic bunch of free-period seniors who are now on day two of their internships. But I had a second set of 10th graders to pair with books, so that occupied the rest of the time.

Fourth period, I managed to get a little bit farther with my composition. I also got an update on how the recording of the skits the Theater class scripted for our presentation to the 8th graders when they visit the library next week was going. This has been a wonderful collaboration experience, and the skits, which are about the rules for appropriate use of our computers and network, written by the students who are themselves subject to the same rules every day, are very sharp. A witty video will make a much stronger impression than a lecture by one of us librarians. We have to thank the TV studio teachers for their input and assistance as well. So far it is a good report from the Theater teacher.

Fifth period, I got to eat my lunch and make a little more progress on The House of Tomorrow (leisure and YA materials research rolled into one). After lunch, I had a nice chat with a junior who was playing computer games illicitly downloaded and hidden on the shared server intended for video storage. He gave up the location of the games folder in exchange for not getting his network access revoked and/or having a chat with the assistant principal for his grade (which often involves detention). After our conversation, I e-mailed the IT helpdesk with the location as well as another location I found in the process of looking up the first one, so that both folders could be cleaned out.

Sixth period, I did a bit more materials locating for some students as well as a teacher, and handled several computer lab scheduling requests and changes for teachers.

Seventh period was spent helping the students settle back down after lunch and assisting with library equipment. I also spent some time at the circ desk to see what the study hall kids were up to, and booktalked a bit with another student.

Eighth period was a bit of a challenge in that we had no classes scheduled to come in, but there were more free period students than average for the last few weeks. I had to have a difficult discussion with yet another set of juniors who were playing games--the one game for which I have zero tolerance in the library. They were begging me not to write them up and, to be honest, this is one of the most difficult things to handle in the library. The one student was someone I see in the library on a regular basis and who usually is very well-behaved. I felt really disappointed by his poor decision. They came to plead with me again a few minutes later while I was trying to take care of something else in the office, and I noticed the story changed about how they had gotten the game. One of them logged back in and showed me where the games were downloaded and hidden on yet another server. I told them I would put all this information into the disciplinary referrals I was going to write.

That said, I did a little more thinking on the subject, and after conferring with my co-librarian, it was decided the students would receive a warning instead of a referral. I would tell them when I saw them tomorrow. . . at which point a light bulb went off and I realized that the students would be in at the same time tomorrow: They had been part of a small math class that had been sent to the library to do an independent research assignment. I sent an e-mail to their teacher about the incident, put tomorrow's computer lab schedule up on the board, and went over special arrangements for tomorrow's classes and study hall with the library aide because we will be short-staffed.

It was well after 3:00 when I saved what little I had written so I could head home after a very full day.

It can be challenging, but I love what I do at school, and I want to do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year.



5/10/2010

A Post Full of Nothing

It is really, really cold here right now--about 50 degrees outside, and maybe 66-67 inside. The Cat is back to her winter behaviors, such as snuggling against the radiator and praying it will start producing heat. Wishful thinking, kitteh.

I met with the principal this morning and, well, I left with some work to do. I did submit an e-mail to her and the top HR lady asking them to consider me as a candidate for the position, but the principal basically hinted she wanted some sort of indication as to what my long-term plans are, for both the school and myself career-wise. I don't know if they just assume that anybody not married yet is going to up and leave them in a matter of months, as my predecessor did, or what. So, anyway, I told her I would provide her with a personal statement about my plans for the library and myself professionally, "if elected."

There's a general outline done for said statement, but I think that's as far as I will get tonight. I managed to take about a half-hour nap after not sleeping very well for the last several days. Stress will do that to a person. I don't like that I have to jump through hoops; haven't I proven myself well enough so far? I also don't like that I keep being advised not to put all my eggs in one basket. . . which means starting up the whole job search process again. [Insert bad language here.]

It all adds up to nothing, then. No real progress. I mean, let's face it--in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, what I've been doing for the past year doesn't count towards getting the next level of my teaching certificate, because I've been a sub.

I don't really have anyone to talk to about it and that's frustrating as well. I tried to explain the situation to my mom, and she just kept repeating, "Well, go fill out the application, then." There's no application. I don't know what they want from me just yet. They have all my stuff on file because they hired me last year. Arrrrgh.

So. . . no real progress.

And what was the playoff game's score tonight? Oh, that's right--Flyers 4, Bruins nothing.

Just had to get a bit of Philly pride in there. Ooh! and my sister alerted me that Hoagiefest is coming back! Yay!

5/08/2010

Interesting Developments

I no longer have a ton of mud outside my patio door (nor a gaping hole as I did for a while in December--see #2). Now there is a slab of cement out there, surrounded by some mud (naturally).

Also, in between the new slab for my patio and the new slab for the people next door's patio, there is nascent landscaping! Mulch! Two small shrubs! A skinny young tree!

What else?

Rose bushes. Pretty pink ones. Awwww!!! St. Rita would be pleased about the timing. The whole front parking lot looks like the Dust Bowl in all the gusty wind we've had today, and there's still pretty much no privacy from the front parking lot (as I used to have from overgrown bushes), but at least things seem to be coming along.


In other news, my position was posted in the "Job Opportunities" section of the school district's website.

Monday.

It took the one video production teacher with whom I am friendly (we went through orientation together) to come into the library Friday morning and show me on the circ desk computer for me to see it.

Hmmmmm.

I guess this means they're not eliminating the position. Why they didn't mention it to me, especially when I saw one of the administrators on Monday, is a bit confusing to me.

This coming Monday morning, I'm meeting with the principal to discuss things and see what I need to do to indicate that I am interested in staying and they should keep me.

It's been challenging to avoid thinking about it.

Prayers and positive thoughts gratefully accepted.

Oscars Project: Movie #16

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. This post contains SPOILERS!)

From 1985: Out of Africa

Summary: Based on the memoirs by Isak (known as "Karen" in this movie) Dinesen and a biographical book about her and one of her lovers, this movie is told from the point of view of Karen (Meryl Streep, nominated for Best Actress), a well-off Victorian-era Danish woman who is reflecting on how her life changed dramatically when she married a friend to avoid spinster-dom and tried to run a farm in Kenya. Right off the bat we get to see how much of a jerk her husband (played so well by Klaus Maria Brandauer we totally hate him and netting him a Best Supporting Actor nomination) is when instead of using Karen's money to buy a dairy farm he decides, without consulting her, to buy a coffee farm.

Coffee takes a long time to grow, and in the meantime Karen meets some nice people, including the jovial Berkeley (Michael Kitchen) and his pal, a hunter named Denys Hatton-Finch (Robert Redford). She tries to convince the chief of the local tribe of native people to allow her to set up a school and educate the children. She also finds out her husband really couldn't care less about her or his marriage vows.

Frankly, I think she should have just not come back from Denmark after leaving for there to recover from the STD her philandering husband gave her. But no, she gets involved with Denys, who, like her estranged husband, has no interest in a full-time relationship or in allowing their love relationship to change him in any way--and Karen is actually surprised and upset about all that.

So I guess this movie truly does fit the classification that Peske and West gave to this decade's movies: "Don't Worry, Be. . . in Denial" (p. 64) in that Karen got married and went to Kenya with totally unrealistic expectations, and after the husband made her sick and left her, war breaks out, her friend dies, the boyfriend leaves her and then dies suddenly in an accident, the farm goes up in flames, and she leaves the place with just a few items after having to sell off the rest, the main thing she wants to drive home to the audience--repeating both in the beginning and ending of the movie--is, "I had a farm in Africa."*

Great cast.**

Beautiful scenes, especially of the farm in Kenya. Streep is gorgeous in this movie, even during the big frizzy hair moments emblematic of Karen's doggedly traveling through the country for days to get to her husband during the war.

But around the 1:30 mark, I wanted to die. Or throttle Karen. Maybe both.

Not one of my favorites on the list so far, but at least I saw it and understand some of the Oscar buzz around it.


Next up: Coal Miner's Daughter



*The Oscar Movies by Pickard claims this is "One of the most quoted opening lines in contemporary cinema" (p. 119). I had no idea.


**Oddly enough, according to
The Oscar Movies, this movie won the most Oscars that year--yet not a single win for the cast (Ibid.).




5/03/2010

The Final Days of 12th Grade

The seniors at my school do about a month of internship starting next week, so these are pretty much their last days of school right now. Last Friday morning, they did their traditional senior prank --this year it was to put out all the lights in the library and have a (five minute) rave with glow sticks that was more like a flash mob. . . please let that be the first and only prank for them.

Some are taking AP exams today and tomorrow, but the majority are coasting, which can be troublesome when they want to horse around in the library because they have nothing to do. Meanwhile, I can't hear myself or the ninth grader I'm helping with her bibliography. But for the most part they're good kids.

At one point in the day I'm doing some computer labs scheduling at my desk when I think I'm hearing my name called.

12th grader D: Miss Palomino? [Yes, that's what he calls me, and no, that's not my name.]

Me: Yes, D?

D: Will you come visit me when I'm away at college?

Me: Where are you going?

D: Maryland.

Me: If I'm in the area, I'll stop by.

D: All right!

Me: I'm not buying you any alcohol, though. [Said with a smile.]

D: Awww! [He was laughing. He probably has a fake ID that makes him older than me, anyway.]


After lunch, another senior asked me if the library had old yearbooks. He was looking for his dad. I pulled a few from the '70s, and pretty soon I had a crowd of six or seven 12th grade boys gathered around, looking at the yearbooks and getting the biggest kick out of the fashion and what the popular clubs were at the time. The Women's Lib club had six students in the picture. I didn't get a close enough look, but I'm guessing it was five ladies and one guy who thought he could score points for being a sensitive champion of equal rights for women.

It was pretty cool when one of the boys said, "I guess thirty-some years from now, our kids will be looking at our yearbooks and saying the same things."

Those kids are all right.

5/02/2010

Odds and Ends for the End of the Weekend

Well, blogfriends, I am creeping ever closer to the 500-post mark. And you know what that means! Some of you do, anyway. Fun times up ahead.

Let's talk books: I slogged my way through a YA book that was due Friday--and before anyone dings me on the librarian-hypocrisy thing, I totally disagree with the no-renewals-for-holds policy (there oughta be a 3-day extension at least)--and I have mixed feelings about it. I had put it on the ordering list for next year for school (and we're not gonna even think about whether I'll be there when the books arrive) but now I'm not sure.

It's called Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. It's her first novel, and while that is evident, it did raise some interesting questions about the nature of death, and even the theory of purgatory, surprisingly. I'd describe the story as what would happen if you put Mean Girls, Groundhog Day, and one of those YA-chick-lit high school series by her or her in a blender.

I don't want to give away too many details that would spoil it--I think I'd recommend it as a fluff/beach read--but it is in the Amazon description that main character, Samantha, is down to her last day on earth and she winds up reliving it seven times for reasons that are not clear at first. One thing I found really thoughtful about the story was how Sam's perspective on her way of life, her friends, her boyfriend, and her family relationships changed in light of her realization of her own mortaility. She wasn't exactly a super-nice person, but she never saw that, because her popularity validated her. Once that reappraisal of herself happens, every aspect of her life, and every aspect of her final day, is viewed in a different light.

The only scene that gave me full-on pause was the re-lived day she decides to be absolutely horrible (because nothing counts and she'll wake up on her last day again--sound familiar to anyone who's seen Groundhog Day?). She's got a hottie math teacher and I think you get the idea. I don't think that part was essential to the story, and I'm not sure I'd deem this appropriate for our school library. Other people's MMV and all that, but we've got young and good-looking faculty of both genders who AFAIK don't even entertain that sort of stuff, so the fact that the teacher acquiesced so quickly to Sam's advances was (1) outrageous and (2) really disturbing. So I have to ask my co-librarian what she thinks about that part.

Other books I'm trying to finish (and in some cases start): Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life; House of Tomorrow; Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. Kind of a random-appearing group, I guess--stemming from things referenced in blogs and magazine articles. The last one also has something to do with just how I've been feeling lately and also a possible audition that I'm not going to discuss just yet.

In other news: It is ridiculously hot in my apartment and shows no signs of cooling down. Part of the problem is that I haven't gotten the dining room AC looked at yet. The fan doesn't seem to be bringing as much cool air in from the bedroom AC as I'd hoped. Maybe it wasn't wise for me to make a little pasta and stir-fry some chard (it was part of a farmer's market veggie bag from school--Moosewood cookbooks have all the answers about veggies) because that generated some heat, too.

Of course, The Cat is fine with the lack of AC, because she doesn't like the full effects of AC and right now is hanging out under the ceiling fan. She would never admit that 78 is a bit too warm for her, but she is spread out like a strip of bacon on the floor.

Relief (maybe in the form of a storm) is supposedly on the way, but it's still going to be warmer than usual for this time of year. I don't have much of my warm weather clothing out, so it's a bit of a hassle. But I'll take low 80s over high 80s in any event!

Gotta go get ready for tomorrow--last week with the seniors before they start internships--but first a little good-natured teasing for CCR: Go Flyers!


5/01/2010

Oscars Project: Movie #15

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. SPOILERS BELOW. You've been warned!)

From 1981: Chariots of Fire

Summary: Olympic hopefuls and sometime rivals (not to mention rivals to their own personal demons) train and run for the U.K. in the 1924 games. It's very faintly a framework story, as it opens and ends at the funeral of one of the runners in the late '70s. The screenplay was based on a true story, and the soundtrack--or at least the song from the titles--is recognized, not to mention referenced, by many.

What I liked:

--It's a good story and the main characters are likeable. Harold is driven to prove himself both as a law student and as a Jew in the face of anti-semitism. Eric is torn up over what it really means to serve God and evangelize the faith: Should he put off being a missionary to China and use his talent for running to glorify God, much to the disapproval of his sister who thinks it's just to glorify the country?

--It's a good "sports movie" that doesn't require deep familiarity with the particulars of the sport (as often is the case with other sports like football, baseball, soccer). You've heard of the Olympics? You've seen people run a race before? You're good to go.

--It also had just enough of a love story between Harold and Sybil, an actress with whom he is smitten after seeing her onstage. When he finally works up the courage to ask her to dinner, it's another victory to cheer. It's also very romantic-sigh-worthy when they kiss, as Sybil wears these signature hats with just enough brim to sweep down and cover their faces when they kiss. Which they do, several times. **sigh**

--It was yet another low-budget movie to win "Best Picture." (The writer of Filmsite disagrees with the decision.) Sometimes I hear buzz about movies with huge budgets and how that alone should make it a good movie and/or deserve award nominations, and it's just not true. (I think the example most often held up to illustrate that is Waterworld, maybe?)

--Fabulous scenery. A lot of the movie was set in Cambridge. It's such a cool scene when Harold undertakes the challenge to run around the courtyard before the clock finishes striking noon.


What I didn't like:

--This movie has a bit of a slow start that I would attribute to exposition. It's kind of a necessary evil.

--In spite of the exposition, sometimes I had a hard time keeping the characters straight. Maybe if I had watched it on the big screen the increased amount of detail would have helped. I don't know.

--The distinctive soundtrack by Vangelis is both genius (yes, it did win Best Score) and a bit dated with some seriously overwrought synth moments. It does grate at times.

--Maybe it's just me, or once again the impact of watching on the small screen, but sometimes people look really goofy when they're running, especially in slow motion.


At the end of the day, I enjoyed this film very much. It did show, as Peske and West say, to "all of us weary runners in the marathon of life that. . . the will to win is more important than the skill to win" (p. 74), because in the end the races were just brief moments in time, but the character and relationships they develop last the rest of their lives.


Up next: Out of Africa. I am not exactly looking forward to this one, but I just want to see what all the fuss was about.